The Lord’s Prayer (Matt 6:9-13/Luke 11:2-4) by C. Clifton Black

No portion of the Bible is more frequently quoted by Christians than the prayer Jesus taught his disciples. In churches of all denominations in all parts of the world, it remains a shared element in worship and private devotion—and one of the strongest cords binding Christians to their Jewish heritage. The wording of this prayer is not distinctively Christian but thoroughly Jewish.

Why are there two versions of the prayer?

The prayer appears twice in the New Testament. A longer version, Matt 6:9-13, is located at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:1–7:29), in the context of Jesus’ instruction about piety appropriate for his followers (Matt 6:1-21). A shorter version, Luke 11:2-4, responds to his disciples’ request, “Teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

Matt 6:9-13:                                Luke 11:2-4:

“Pray then in this way:                 He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Our Father in heaven,                  Father,

hallowed be your name.               hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come.                    Your kingdom come.

Your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.  Give us each day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts,            And forgive us our sins,

as we also have forgiven              For we ourselves forgive everyone

our debtors.                                indebted to us.

And do not bring us to the time    And do not bring us to the time

of trial,                                        of trial.”

but rescue us from the evil one.”

Many scholars believe Luke’s shorter version was earlier, expanded by Matthew. Others consider Matthew’s wording earlier, compressed by Luke. Another possibility is that the two versions represent different traditions handed down apart from each other.

Outside the New Testament this prayer’s earliest attestation is in the Didache (8.2), a late first-century manual of Christian instruction. It prescribes the prayer’s recitation three times a day, in a form nearly identical to that in Matthew but with a closing ascription: “for yours is the power and the glory forever.” By the ninth century, “the kingdom” was added (compare with 1Chr 29:11-13). Across the centuries this appendix became even more elaborate and conspicuously Christian: “for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages” (The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, fifth century).

How is the Lord’s Prayer distinctly Jewish?

Both versions of this prayer contain two discernible parts. The first half (Matt 6:9-10/Luke 11:2) asks that God’s holiness be maintained and God’s sovereignty be extended. The address to God as “Father” and reference to God’s “kingdom” correspond to Old Testament phraseology (for example, Deut 32:6, Ps 145:13, Isa 64:8). In the Talmud (b. Ta‘anit 25b), Akiba, the second-century rabbi, is quoted as praying to “Our Father, our king,” characterizations of God anticipated in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q216 4.9), Philo (Conf. 170, 175), and the Mishnah (m. Yoma 8.9). In the Bible one’s name is no mere label but the repository of one’s peculiar essence (Gen 2:19, Gen 32:28). In Ezekiel, God “hallows” the divine name—sets it apart, consecrates it, sanctifies it—to demonstrate supreme divinity over all other gods and authorities: that “the nations shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezek 36:22-27; compare John 17:1-12).

Jesus was remembered as having customarily addressed God as father (Matt 5:48, Mark 14:36, Luke 6:36, John 6:32). “The kingdom” was Jesus’ preferred image for God’s dynamic reign throughout eternity, already yet secretly erupting in human history (Matt 13:18-23, Mark 4:21-32 Luke 17:20-21). Matt 6:10 amplifies the prayer’s previous petitions by asking that God’s will, unrestricted in heaven, rectify all things on earth (compare with the Kaddish, a tenth-century Jewish hymn of praise). In the first century B.C.E., Horace’s Letter to Augustus addresses the emperor as “god present.” Although Jesus orchestrated no assault against the Roman Empire (Matt 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25), his prayer insists that his disciples’ final allegiance is to God, not Caesar.

Like the Amidah, the ancient and still-central prayer of the Jewish liturgy, Jesus’ prayer begins with God’s exaltation and then turns to the community’s needs. The petition for bread (Matt 6:11/Luke 11:3) could be a simple plea for sustenance (compare with Exod 16:4, Ps 132:15), an allusion to an end-time banquet (compare with Luke 14:15), or a conflation of both (2 Bar. 29:8). In both Matthew and Luke this bread is modified by an adjective unattested elsewhere in Greek literature; one could translate it as bread “for today,” “for the following day,” “for the future,” or “necessary for existence.”

This section’s second petition (Matt 6:12/Luke 11:4) is for forgiveness of “debts” (Matthew) or “sins” (Luke). In ancient Aramaic, which was probably Jesus’ native tongue, the former term, referring to financial liabilities, is a metaphor for the second (compare with 11Q Tg. Job 34.4,  m. ’Avot 3.17). (The translation “trespasses,” familiar in Anglican liturgy, originated with William Tyndale in 1526.) The exchange implied here is that one who cannot offer forgiveness cannot receive it—but those who can forgive will be forgiven (see Matt 18:21-35, Luke 15:11-32): “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray” (Sir 28:2).

The final petition (Matt 6:13/Luke 11:4) is a vote of no confidence in one’s own strength to resist severe temptation, reminiscent of Paul’s encouragement in 1Cor 10:13 and anticipating talmudic pleas that the Lord not bring the faithful “into the power of sin, the power of guilt, the power of temptation, and the power of anything shameful” (b. Berakhot 60b).

The Bible does not speak with one voice on whether God puts mortals to the test: such is the case with Abraham (Gen 22:1-14), the Israelites (Exod 15:25), and (Job 1:6-2:6), yet the Letter of James asserts, “God … himself tempts no one” (Jas 1:13). In the Gospels, Jesus urges his disciples to pray that they may not enter trials (Matt 26:36-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46), even though he himself is subject to diabolical testing (Matt 4:1-11, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-13). The noun in the last clause of Matt 6:13 may be translated as either neuter (“evil”) or masculine (“the evil one,” Satan: compare with John 17:15). The second translation matches “the time of trial” in the preceding clause and fits the apocalyptic tenor of Jesus’ teaching in general (Matt 10:34-36, Luke 12:49-53, Mark 13:5-13).

C. Clifton Black, "Lord’s Prayer ", n.p. [cited 28 May 2017]. Online: http://bibleodyssey.com/en/passages/main-articles/lords-prayer

Contributors

C. Clifton Black

C. Clifton Black
Professor, Princeton Theological Seminary

C. Clifton Black is the Otto A. Piper Professor of Biblical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church. His books include Anatomy of the New Testament (7th ed., Fortress, 2013), Mark (Abingdon, 2011), and Reading Scripture with the Saints (Wipf & Stock, 2014).

The Lord’s Prayer, the most often recited passage of Christian scripture and practice, is Jewish to the bone.

Did you know…?

  • Like most of Jesus’ teaching about “the kingdom,” this prayer originally referred to the end-times (compare Matt 25:31-46 and Luke 6:26 with Dan 6:26, Dan 7:18). Contemporary Christian theology has recovered the eschatological connotations of its petitions.
  • Daily bread” is a guess at Jesus’ meaning. We do not know the prayer in Aramaic, as he taught it; in the New Testament, the Greek adjective appears only in Matt 6:11/Luke 11:3 and nowhere else.
  • Missing from Jesus’ prayer are elements commonplace in synagogue prayers derived from later rabbinic teaching: thanksgiving for the Torah, curses against apostates, and petitions for Israel. Their absence could explain how a religious movement chiefly populated by Gentiles so easily adopted this Jewish prayer.
  • Roman Catholics traditionally refer to this prayer as the Pater Noster (“Our Father,” in Latin). Traditional Catholic liturgies omit the appended doxology. Most Protestants recite it.

A very early composite Christian text about church rules and Christian discipline.

Characteristic of a deity (a god or goddess).

Associated with a deity; exhibiting religious importance; set apart from ordinary (i.e. "profane") things.

The standardized collection of practices—ceremonies, readings, rituals, songs, and so forth—related to worship in a religious tradition.

A collection of first-century Jewish and early Christian writings that, along with the Old Testament, makes up the Christian Bible.

Devotion to a divinity and the expression of that devotion.

A message usually delivered orally by a religious leader.

Matt 6:9-13

9“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.10Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.11Give us this day our ... View more

Matt 5:1–7:29

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Matt 6:1-21

Concerning Almsgiving
1“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.2“So w ... View more

Luke 11:2-4

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.3Give us each day our daily bread.4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourse ... View more

Luke 11:1

The Lord's Prayer
1He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his d ... View more

Matt 6:9-13

9“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.10Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.11Give us this day our ... View more

Luke 11:2-4

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.3Give us each day our daily bread.4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourse ... View more

1Chr 29:11-13

11Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the k ... View more

Title designating an emperor of the Roman Empire.

A collection of Jewish texts (biblical, apocryphal, and sectarian) from around the time of Christ that were preserved near the Dead Sea and rediscovered in the 20th century.

A broad, diverse group of nations ruled by the government of a single nation.

A period of time that appears most often in apocalyptic texts and refers to a future time marked by radical change, at the end of human history.

Holiness (source, not general concept. Leviticus 17-27, and scattered passages elsewhere in the Pentateuch (Torah), so called because of its author's call that all Israel be holy.

A song or poem that is religious in nature.

A collection of rabbinic interpretations of biblical law. The Mishnah records the judgments of a group of rabbis called tannaim (as distinct from the amoraim, whose interpretations of the Mishnah are recorded in the Talmud). According to tradition, the Mishnah was compiled and edited by a rabbi named Judah the Prince around 200 C.E.

Also called the Hebrew Bible, those parts of the canon that are common to both Jews and Christians. The designation "Old Testament" places this part of the canon in relation to the New Testament, the part of the Bible canonical only to Christians. Because the term "Old Testament" assumes a distinctly Christian perspective, many scholars prefer to use the more neutral "Hebrew Bible," which derives from the fact that the texts of this part of the canon are written almost entirely in Hebrew.

A Jewish philosopher who lived from roughly 20 B.C.E. to 50 C.E. whose writings bridge Greek culture and Jewish thought.

A collection of rabbinic writings, mostly interpretations of the Hebrew Bible and the Mishnah (another rabbinic collection). There are two Talmuds, the Palestinian and the Babylonian, so called after the region in which each is believed to have been compiled. The Talmuds were likely composed between the third and the sixth centuries C.E.

Matt 6:9-10

9“Pray then in this way:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.10Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Luke 11:2

2He said to them, “When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.

Deut 32:6

6Do you thus repay the Lord,
O foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?

Ps 145:13

13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
and gracious in all his ... View more

Isa 64:8

8Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.

Gen 2:19

19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and ... View more

Gen 32:28

28Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.”

Ezek 36:22-27

22Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy ... View more

John 17:1-12

Jesus Prays for His Disciples
1After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son ... View more

Matt 5:48

48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Mark 14:36

36He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”

Luke 6:36

36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

John 6:32

32Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from h ... View more

Matt 13:18-23

The Parable of the Sower Explained
18“Hear then the parable of the sower.19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one co ... View more

Mark 4:21-32

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket
21He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand?22For there ... View more

Luke 17:20-21

The Coming of the Kingdom
20Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with th ... View more

Matt 6:10

10Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Matt 22:21

21They answered, “The emperor's.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.”

Mark 12:17

17Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

Luke 20:25

25He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.”

Matt 6:11

11Give us this day our daily bread.

Luke 11:3

3Give us each day our daily bread.

Exod 16:4

4Then the Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I ... View more

Ps 132:15

15I will abundantly bless its provisions;
I will satisfy its poor with bread.

Luke 14:15

The Parable of the Great Dinner
15One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

Matt 6:12

12And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Luke 11:4

4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Matt 18:21-35

Forgiveness
21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?”22Jes ... View more

Luke 15:11-32

The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother
11Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons.12The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the ... View more

Sir 28:2

2Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done,
and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.

Matt 6:13

13And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

Luke 11:4

4And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

1Cor 10:13

13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he ... View more

Gen 22:1-14

The Command to Sacrifice Isaac
1After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”2He said, “Take your son, your only s ... View more

Exod 15:25

25He cried out to the Lord; and the Lord showed him a piece of wood; he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.
There the Lord! made for them a sta ... View more

Job 1:6-2:6

Attack on Job's Character
6One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.7The Lord said to Satan, “Wher ... View more

Jas 1:13

13No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.

Matt 26:36-46

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”37He ... View more

Mark 14:32-42

Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
32They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”33He took with him Peter and James and ... View more

Luke 22:39-46

Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives
39He came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples followed him.40When he reached the place ... View more

Matt 4:1-11

The Temptation of Jesus
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.2He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwar ... View more

Mark 1:13

13He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

Luke 4:1-13

The Temptation of Jesus
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,2where for forty days he was tempt ... View more

Matt 6:13

13And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

John 17:15

15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.

Matt 10:34-36

Not Peace, but a Sword
34“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.35For I have come to set a man ... View more

Luke 12:49-53

Jesus the Cause of Division
49“I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!50I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what ... View more

Mark 13:5-13

5Then Jesus began to say to them, “Beware that no one leads you astray.6Many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.7When you h ... View more

A short expression of praise to God.

Concerned with the future final events of the world.

Related to the rabbis, who became the religious authorities of Judaism in the period after the destruction of the second temple in 70 C.E. Rabbinic traditions were initially oral but were written down in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and various other collections.

Writing, speech, or thought about the nature and behavior of God.

Matt 25:31-46

The Judgment of the Nations
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.32All the nation ... View more

Luke 6:26

26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

Dan 6:26

26I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel:
For he is the living God,
enduring forever.
His kingdo ... View more

Dan 7:18

18But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”

Matt 6:11

11Give us this day our daily bread.

Luke 11:3

3Give us each day our daily bread.

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